Art and knowledge in “The gay science”

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By ERNANI CHAVES*

Considerations on Friedrich Nietzsche's book.

 Jeanne-Marie Gagnebin, closer and closer, in the distance.

The so-called works of the “second period” of Nietzsche's thought, which canonically include the two parts of Human, all too human, Aurora e the gay science, written and published between 1877 and 1882, have received very little attention from Brazilian scholars. This owes much to a kind of anathema that fell on them, as if they were the expression of Nietzsche's positivism or even a mere moment of transition between the dazzling writings of “youth” and the “great works” of “maturity”.

Anyone who decides to do research, consulting, for example, books, magazines, newspapers or even the Theses Bank of Capes, will be able to verify that the vast majority of studies on Nietzsche (and there are many, too many!) end up revolving around three fetish texts: O birth of tragedy, Thus spake Zarathustra e Genealogy of Morals. Even more: they delegate to the so-called fundamental concepts forged in the “third period”, especially those of eternal return, beyond-man and will to power, the role of key concepts, defining in the last instance, the thought of Nietzsche (and here they follow Heidegger, explicitly or implicitly).

The fact that Nietzsche resumed, in his final texts, numerous themes and motifs from his first book facilitates the connection between the first and third phases, thus leaving the second always relegated to a secondary role. Finally, I would add one more reason for the relative neglect of these texts: they did not allow for an immediate and rapid appropriation by the so-called postmodern theorists, just as they support very little the idea of ​​a “weak thought”.

My goal lately has been just the opposite. I have tried to show how much the books of the so-called second phase, all of them “books of aphorisms”, which marks their uniqueness, contain extremely indispensable and important elements, without which the great works of maturity remain, in a certain way, incomprehensible. In addition, following Mazzino Montinari's proposition, I consider that the greatest rupture in Nietzsche's thought already happens with Human, all too human. His detachment from Wagner is fundamental here, insofar as it makes possible an evaluation of art as such and no longer, as before and since. O birth of tragedy, confined to modern art.

Nietzsche certainly retains the centrality of “artistic impulses”, but in relation to them he promotes a double shift: first, he reveals their historical contours, the gateway to understanding the past, in which art and religion, together, form one of the decisive links; secondly, he criticizes the supreme art of his time, that of Wagner, denouncing it, since then, as the culmination of histrionics and the aversive attitude towards science. To this image of poet, of the poet, as the “creator” par excellence, Nietzsche opposes that of the fra geist, the free spirit.

While in the period of birth of tragedy the world still needed an “aesthetic justification”, now it is precisely the “aesthetic faculty” that distances humanity more and more from the truth. The “metaphysical necessity”, which before was still a “consolation”, is no longer an eternal necessity, but, on the contrary, profoundly historical, in such a way that we would only be left with the search for an ideal contemplative wisdom, which Nietzsche forged, precisely , through the image of the “free spirit”.

This process of getting rid of youthful illusions is completed in Aurora by designing a Neue Leidenschaft, One passion new, as it appears in the preparatory fragments for the book, and receives its most complete formulation in aphorism 429, entitled “The new passion”. Our fear of returning to barbarism, our hatred of barbarism – this is how Nietzsche begins the aphorism – is due to the fact that our happiness is unthinkable without the “drive to knowledge”, hence it is impossible for us to think of happiness without knowledge.

In this perspective, resuming the Of love, by Stendhal, Nietzsche considers the “passion of knowledge”, this “new passion”, as the most extreme of all passions, characterizing it with the same terms traditionally attributed to the love passion: the “uneasiness” provoked by this “new passion” is similar to that provoked in the lover by an “unhappy” unrequited love. However, like the unhappy lover, the lover of knowledge prefers the tremors and fears of uneasiness to apparently appeasing indifference. In other words: passion is not afraid of pain and does not renounce it in the name of a non-painful state.

In this perspective, the passion for knowledge is not just a passionate love, but also an unhappy love: “The restlessness of discovering and solving has become as attractive and essential for us as the unhappy love for the one who loves: which he does not I would never exchange for the state of indifference; – yes, perhaps we too are star-crossed lovers! Knowledge in us has been transformed into a passion that does not falter before any sacrifice and fears, deep down, nothing but its own extinction; we honestly believe that, under the impetus and suffering of this passion, all humanity must believe itself more sublime and consoled than before, when it had not yet overcome the envy of gross well-being that accompanies barbarism.

With all its pain, this new passion, always ready to sacrifice itself for "all humanity", can represent both a new elevation and a new consolation. A new elevation, insofar as it distances us from barbarism and its crude pleasure: the passion for knowledge engenders the “feeling of power”. A new consolation, because if truths, solely because of their content, do not console, the passion for knowledge, however, can still console us, since the restlessness of discovering and feeling does not depend, like the joy of hunting, on nature. of the truths found. But this new elevation and this new consolation cannot divert us from the “great paradox” of passion, namely, that also because of it, all humanity can perish, since the “passion for knowledge” also engenders the “Don Juan of knowledge”.

Not by chance, “joy in the hunt” resumes the characterization of “love to the don Juan” in Stendhal as “a feeling in the genre of the taste for hunting”, as a growing need “that must be awakened by different objects” and that puts “incessantly” in doubt, the talent of the conqueror. Comparing Don Juan ao Werther of Goethe, Stendhal emphasizes in the first the relationship between the unhappiness of inconstancy and boredom, between unhappiness, despair and death; while the second still enchants, however fleeting it may be, the vision of the beloved woman, the discovery of novelty, activity as opposed to boredom. The “passion of knowledge” for Nietzsche gathers this paradox, becoming a mixture between the love-passion according to Don Juan and Werther, in which the happy discovery of the new and the possibility of perishing go hand in hand.

Em The Gay Science, the passion for knowledge will be thought of, among others, through the theme of “distance”, “distance”, “far”, which Nietzsche spells now as distance, now how Distance, in a terminological oscillation that should not escape us. The guiding thread of this theme is provided by aphorism 15 of the book entitled, significantly, From far: “From afar”, as translated by Paulo César Souza. The romantic resonance of the theme is evident from the beginning of the aphorism and its reference to the mountain that completely dominates the landscape, transmitting a strong stimulus not only to the spectator, but also to the landscape itself. Now, given this natural grandeur and its attraction, the impulse to climb, to climb to its summit is inevitable.

Here we find again a central theme of romantic aesthetics (in conjunction with the philosophy of nature, since Schelling and Goethe) in particular of painting, which must be, above all, a “landscape painting”, a Landschaftsmalerei, which will be characterized, in the wake of the Third Critique  of Kant, as a “painting of the sublime”. Nature has the role of elevating the imagination and making it sensitive to the experience of the sublime, and for Jena's romanticism, this idea means that nature is not just a negative representation of the sublime, but, on the contrary, the sublime. it is in nature – nature becomes a kind of “theophany” –, and the mediation of art will make its apprehension possible through theoretical knowledge. With this, romantic painting was able to place the landscape in the foreground and no longer religious or historical paintings, as was common until then. The artistic work of Caspar David Friedrich, immersed in a twilight light, constitutes, perhaps, the corollary of this perspective, in which the “spiritual eye” and not the “body’s eye” dialogues with the outside world, as in a process psychic.

Now, if the starting point of Nietzsche's aphorism is romantic, its arrival point, on the contrary, is not. This perhaps explains the terminological passage from the distance from title to Distance inside the aphorism. Why this change? Because the distance romantic, which drives the spectator to try to apprehend the sublime in nature, turns out to be, in the end, absolutely inefficient and frustrating, as it leads to forgetting the Distance, that is, forgetting that “some greatness, like some goodness”, can only be seen “from a certain distance, Distance”. And even more: at a distance not from above, but from below!

Nietzsche is here in complete opposition to the most famous of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings, entitled Der Wanderer über den Nebelmeer, from 1818, in which the “wanderer”, with his back to the spectator, dressed in bourgeois fashion, contemplates from the top of a mountain the mist, which, mixed like a stormy sea, spreads out in front of him. From this perspective, Distance has, in the Nietzschean vocabulary, the critical sense of opposing the romantic illusion, fed by the topos da distance.

This critical trait is resumed at the end of the aphorism, when, addressing an interlocutor, an imaginary reader, Nietzsche states that some men “close to you”, nearby, need to review their own idea of ​​“self-knowledge”, if they still feed on this illusion, that is, if they still “need to see themselves only from a certain distance, distance”, so that they can find themselves bearable, attractive or admired. The “art of living”, in which Nietzsche is engaged at this moment, cannot, therefore, be guided by the possibility of knowing the sublime expressed in nature. the distance like distance ends up becoming, in Nietzsche's eyes, a kind of immobilizing nostalgia, which still believes that the world has a meaning to be found, which once discovered implies, to the same extent, the discovery of oneself.

The same argumentative principle presides over the formulation of aphorism 60, “Women and their effect at a distance”. If the word that opens the aphorism already in its title is distance, your last word is precisely Distance. And what happens between the two, that is, what is this aphorism about? If, in the aforementioned aphorism, everything revolved around seeing and the possibility of apprehending what was seen by the intellect, here it is a matter of emphasizing hearing and, in a certain way, the “regression of hearing” in the modern world. Now, the modern world penetrates the subject through the ear, it is through it that noise, including even an aria, “deafens like a bellowing bull”, turning life into a “hell labyrinth”. Then, not too far away, a large sailboat appears, “silent as a ghost” (in a probable reference to the Ghost ship Wagnerian), a “ghostly beauty”, “bewitching”, “spectral”. As if that ship carried with it all the tranquility and silence in the world, as if, finally, happiness found its place in silence, as if the “I”I) happy", the "my second self (Selbst) eternal” found peace being neither alive nor dead.

Romanticism is criticized here along with Schopenhaurian nihilism, in which the idea of ​​happiness is coupled to this state of Nirvana, of indifference to pain and pleasure, this being neither dead nor alive, as Nietzsche says. Or, remembering the ghost ship, the story of the “wandering Dutchman”, as told by Wagner, who like Odysseus or the “wandering Jew” embodies the nostalgia for rest, for tranquility after the long and tiring journey. Therefore, this sailboat compares itself, with its “white sails”, to an “immense butterfly” (again the idea of ​​“sublime”) running “over the dark sea”, that is, “running about existence”, inasmuch as it ignores that existence is a composite of pain and pleasure. All this noise, Nietzsche tells us, leads us to believe that happiness lies in stillness and distance, in distance.

Again, the distance understood as distance belongs to the romantic vocabulary and the romantic vision of the world, which Nietzsche continues to criticize, since it presupposes a nostalgia that turns its back on existence, on the affirmation of life in its integrity, to idealize a Nirvana, a world in which one is neither neither alive nor dead, where the wanderer wants a happy port, a safe anchorage. Well, that's why we can't fool ourselves with the promise of happiness, as quietness and rest, embodied by female fascination, as if in the proximity of women, by their side, in short, we could find happiness and seclusion.

And here, anticipating the famous opening pages of Beyond Good and Evil, in which Nietzsche constructs a kind of fable, in which the “truth-woman” often escapes the hunter-philosopher, he refers to the “fascination and powerful effect of women” according to the language of philosophers, that is, the language of metaphysics, as a “distance effect”, eine Wirkung in die Ferne. But to add, right after, first in Latin, a action in distances and finally complete: “whatever requires before and above all – distance, (Distance)!”

The circle closes: the effect at a distance of women, when expressed in the language of metaphysics, is found in the same vein as the romantic perspective, insofar as women would be the idealized incarnation of happiness, from which their fascination and power derive. . However, such idealization only accentuates, on the contrary, his kinship with destruction and death, such as “Senta”, the woman with whom the Wagnerian “wandering Dutchman” falls in love. By demanding once again the Distance, instead of distance, it is as if Nietzsche, going against the grain of the feminist movements of his time and which he so criticized, insisted on the historicity of the “feminine”, beyond the idealizations of women, so typical of romanticism and demanding movements.

Finally, in aphorism 107, “Our last gratitude to art” (translated by Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho), Nietzsche introduces the theme of künstlerische Ferne, of “artistic distance”, making no reference to Distance. What does that mean? That Nietzsche succumbs to romanticism? Or that he transforms the distance romantic into something else?

Read carefully, this aphorism shows us that the question of an “art of living”, art of living, which Nietzsche develops inThe Gay Science, takes up the theme of life as an aesthetic phenomenon, which already appears inO birth of tragedy. Now, what separates these two books, what distinguishes the understanding of life as an aesthetic phenomenon in them, is precisely the theme of “distance”, absent in the first book. Even more, an “artistic distance” and not just any distance. Here, it seems to me, is Nietzsche's subversion of the romantic theme of distance, that is, it adds a properly “artistic” dimension to it, which can be expressed both through the tragic and the comic.

Here, therefore, is "our last gratitude to art": if existence is still endurable for us through art, if through it "we are given eyes and hands and, above all, a good conscience", then our task is to be able to make ourselves an aesthetic phenomenon, to make our lives a work of art. Nietzsche relativizes, in this way, his blunt criticism of the romantic relationship between “far away” and “self-knowledge”, as enunciated in aphorism 15. He now says that “occasionally we need to rest from ourselves, looking at ourselves from above and below. away", but immediately adding: "and, from an artistic distance, laughing at us or crying for us".

From this perspective, unlike O birth of tragedy, a “perspective from a distance” is essential to the tragic and the comic. Therefore, the consideration of distance does not mark the difference between the tragic and the comic, but the difference between the perspective of art and the perspective of knowledge. We are, as you can see, a long way from positivism! In the tragic, distancing oneself means transfiguring and elevating oneself; in the comic, on the contrary, it means gaining distance from oneself through humor. The perspective of art differs from that of knowledge precisely because it dispenses with “artistic distance”, which leads to a single possible certainty: that in our passion for knowledge there is always something of interest. hero quality all.

“We need to rejoice,” continues Nietzsche, “in our stupidity from time to time, in order to continue to rejoice in our wisdom.” With this, Nietzsche indicates that “artistic distance” also teaches us to look at ourselves, from a distance that is no longer to be confused with the lofty look, from above, typical of someone who climbs mountains to take possession of the sublime. Finally, however, in a complete reversal, which distances Nietzsche from the dark elements coming from both Schopenhauer and the Romantics, the comic, that is, laughter, mockery, the child that can still inhabit us, imposes itself so that we do not “let us lose the freedom to hover above things”.

Contrary to those who want to hover above life, what Nietzsche insists here is that this “hovering above things” means not going back, not falling back into the net of morals and so on “power also stay above of morals”. Now, what makes this staying “above” morality possible is also art or, more properly speaking, art. künstlerische Ferne, the “artistic distance”. Furthermore, just as art cannot be dispensed with for this task of “transvaluation”, one cannot dispense with the “fool” either, who with his “fool’s hat”, dancing and floating, makes us laugh all the time. and make fun of ourselves, the seriousness of our science, the rigor of our research, the social relevance of our studies.

What the perspective of art teaches the perspective of science is not just, as in O birth of tragedy, the value of illusion, error, lies, but the value of a “distance”, which, for being “artistic”, that is, creative, for not being proud of its conquests seen from above, as if the gaze of the scientist (like that of the romantic artist) could encompass the “sublime”, he could finally affirm the integrity of existence and, with that, “hover above things”. Not as a heroic gesture, as the lover of knowledge imagines himself to be, inasmuch as he does not renounce his passion, but much more like the gesture of a clown, a fool, a fool, like the one who, in order to learn to mock himself, needs to recognize himself as part of the list of “serious and heavy men”. That's why art, this "good will of appearance” is indispensable to us, just as the fool is.

This journey through three aphorisms of The Gay Science, significant for the theme of “distance”, showed how Nietzsche’s critique of romanticism (partial, certainly unfair in some points) and also of Schopenhauer and Wagner makes him not only oppose the Distance à distance, but also ends up transforming the romantic element of distance, through the idea of ​​“artistic distance”. The aesthetic element of “distance”, which emphasizes its creative aspect, will remain in the fundamental concept of “pathos of distance”, present in the third phase of Nietzsche’s thought, from the Zarathustra.

The “passion for distance”, the “love of the most distant”, which “Zarathustra” opposes to the Christian “love of neighbour”, does not respond to any nostalgic desire for integration, unity or transcendence, to any radical withdrawal from the world, but to a consideration of oneself and the world, which implies the permanent creation and recreation of values. In a meaningless world, abandoned to its fate after the “death of God”, the “pathos of distance” refers to a work that aims at the permanent transformation of life into a work of art and thus makes ethics an “aesthetics of existence”.

* Ernani Chaves He is a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at UFPA. Author, among other books, of On the threshold of modern (Pakatatu).

Originally published in the magazine Criterion, no. 112, December 2005.

 

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